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Lower child immunization rates troubling

It’s not a secret that many routine trips to the doctor have been delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but a recent report showed a worrisome trend: Fewer children in Michigan than usual are currently up-to-date on routine vaccines due to postponed well-child visits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Less than half of five-month olds in Michigan were fully up to date on all recommended vaccines in May this year, down from an average of two-thirds from 2016-2019, according to data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry cited in a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services news release.

Furthermore, only around 53% of Michigan children 19-35 months of age were fully immunized with recommended vaccines, according to MCIR data cited in the release.

These trends are particularly worrisome because decreased immunization rates put Michiganders at risk for disease outbreaks, and it’s particularly critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s strain on the health care system to ensure everyone is protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“It is concerning that so many children are behind on their vaccinations and susceptible to preventable diseases,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, said in the release. “Vaccines are essential. It is important for caregivers to contact their health care provider to get children caught up on needed vaccines.”

Due to this, MDHHS officials also say it will be critical for as many people as possible to get the flu vaccine this year due to the pandemic.

“It will also be vital for everyone ages six months and older to get their flu vaccine this fall,” Khaldun said in the release. “The influenza vaccine will help keep Michiganders out of the hospital for flu-related illnesses, saving lives and protecting our hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We agree with Khaldun. COVID-19 has shown us firsthand just how devastating diseases can be when there is no existing vaccine, and we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves from transmitting and spreading other communicable diseases amid the pandemic.

We recognize some may have concerns about the safety of visiting a health care provider at this time, but the MDHHS is emphasizing that many health care providers are implementing procedures such as checking in from the car, limiting how many people can accompany a child and requiring face masks to “ensure patients can safely come in for well visits and to get caught up on immunizations,” the release states.

We encourage readers to protect themselves, their families, friends and communities by staying up to date on routine vaccinations and making sure to get a flu shot, as taking these steps to stay healthy as an individual can make all the difference for your community.

For more information on receiving vaccinations and the COVID-19 precautions in place, contact your health care provider or local health department. The Marquette County Health Department can be reached at 906-475-9977.

For more information about immunizations, visit IVaccinate.org.

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